Junk Mail

Filed in by on June 19, 2008 5 Comments

junk mail
Junk Mail. As kids we loved it didn’t we? We used to rush to the door, giving the dog a run for its money, every time the postman arrived. With cries of ‘Anything for me?’ our parents would hand us bright, shiny junk mail.

There was nothing quite as exciting as the Reader’s Digest envelopes, with promises of enough money to buy all the sweets and toys we wanted.

Those plastic keys, stickers and scratch off panels would keep us entertained for hours. After we had triumphantly filled everything out, matched the symbols and realised we were an ‘early bird’ winner in line for all the top prizes there was just a sense of confusion and betrayal when our parents insisted we threw away our morning’s effort in the bin.

‘But look – we might win!’ we protested. Our parents, muttering something about ‘junk mail’ and marketing ploys, would dump our treasures in the bin, while we thought, no knew that they had finally lost it and were throwing away our chance for as many Barbies and lego as we could imagine.

But now were all grown up and we realise Mum and Dad were right about at least one thing – junk mail, according to most of us, is fit only for the bin. Or as my Dad, in a rather smug voice, says when he noisily rips it up ‘There’s something else for the filing’

Is junk mail bad for the environment?

It might be argued that junk mail is not so bad in the grand scheme of landfill contribution. After all, it’s only a bit of paper and an envelope.

The Good.

1- Paper is biodegradable

2- Paper is made from a natural renewable resource

3- Paper is recyclable.

The Bad

1- If paper comes from poorly managed forests then the trees used are not replaced after use, resulting in soil erosion and loss of habitat.

2- The printing of most junk mail uses toxic inks which eventually break down into the environment.

3- Not all councils recycle envelopes.

4- Paper can only be recycled five times before the fibres become too weak to be reused.

The Ugly

1- About 21 billion items (550,000 tonnes) of junk mail are sent out every year in the UK (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

2- Paper makes up around a quarter of the contents of the average household dustbin.

3- Over 5 million tonnes of paper ends up in the landfill every year.

4- As paper decomposes without light and oxygen in the landfill it emits methane.

Different types of junk mail and how to stop it

Householders call it ‘junk mail’, Royal Mail call it ‘door to door’. For the purpose of this article, we’ll stick to the term junk mail.

This topic is a bit complex as there are several types of junk mail. You’ll need to complete all the steps below to stop it coming through.

1- Contact the company

If a specific company is sending mail to you that you no longer want, you simply contact that company directly and ask them to remove your details from their database. They are obliged to do so by law.

You will often still be getting mailshots from companies long after you require their services. For example, I was still getting catalogues for baby items when my daughter was four. Either writing or telephoning these companies stopped them sending out to me once I explained I was never going to buy any of their things again.

2- Mail Preference Service

Around 3.4 billion items of addressed direct mail is sent out every year. This accounts for about 181,500 tonnes of paper.

The Mail Preference Service (MPS) will stop 95% of addressed direct mail once you register with them. Addressed direct mail is sent out from companies who have bought your details on a database or is the result of you signing up for a company and ticking (or not un ticking) the box that says ‘from time to time we might send you mail from carefully selected companies…………..’

We signed up for MPS and within about 3 weeks our junk mail had reduced by about 80% – it was well worth it!

Go to the MPS and register for free. Or call them on 0845 703 4599 to request an application form.

3- Opt Out

Around 13 billion items of unaddressed direct mail are sent out yearly.
For all those pesky glossy leaflets and cards that get put through your door along with unaddressed mail, there is a way to stop it!

Note that if the mail is addressed to ‘the occupier’ or ‘the householder’ AND has your address on it, the Post Office are legally obliged to deliver it to you as it is classed as direct mail rather than unaddressed mail.

In this instance, there is nothing you can do except return it to sender once you have opened it just for the sheer fun of it.

If enough of us do this (especially if we use their prepaid envelopes to send it all back in) then the company might just get the message as they have to pay to have mail returned to them.

If you want to stop leaflets and unaddressed mail being delivered by Royal Mail write to:

Door to Door Opt Outs
Royal Mail
Kingsmead House
Oxpens Road

or send an email to [email protected] and request their ‘door-to-door opt-out form’. If you prefer to telephone then call 08457 950950.

Once this type of junk mail stops, it’s important to remember that registration only takes you off the list for two years. You’ll need to re register to keep your name on the opt out register. Maybe in the future, we’ll see and opt IN rather than an opt out!

4- Get a sticker

For junk mail that has nothing to do with Royal Mail, such as leaflet drops from local companies and takeaway menus, you’ll need to put a sticker on your letter box. Local companies do not have access to the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) register so will just post to all households in the area.

Please be aware that doing only this step will NOT stop junk mail from Royal Mail – you’ll need to take the above steps to do that.

You can be the proud owner of one of these great stickers from the fabulous Stop Junk Mail website.

Junk mail sticker from Stop junk mail

Things to consider before stopping all junk mail.

1- You might miss out of genuine offers that you are interested in from companies. You’ll need to think about how many times junk mail has been useful to you in the past 12 months to see whether you really want to stop it all.

2- Opting out means that NO ONE in the household will receive unaddressed mail items. If you’re living in shared accommodation you’ll need to check that everyone in the house is happy with this decision.

3- Opting out will only stop mail delivered by Royal Mail. You’ll still get leaflets in your papers, magazines and from leaflet drops unless you are displaying a sticker on your letterbox.

4- Royal Mail make money from delivering unwanted mail and say that if we all stop our junk mail, they will be forced to put their postal prices up.

5- We all love the little perks we get with our jobs, so do spare a thought for your postman. He or She will get subsidised wages for delivering junk mail. Remember that it is not their fault that they have to deliver this stuff – they are simply doing their job, and what a great service they provide delivering all our mail throughout the year.

Further information about junk mail

There is an excellent site called Stop Junk Mail where you will learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about junk mail. The brainchild behind this fabulous site is Robert Rijkhoff, who worked as a postman in the Netherlands for several years. We’ve got a super cool and funky competition coming up next month with the Stop Junk Mail site. So be sure to check back and find out what you can win!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (5)

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  1. Amanda says:

    I was just thinking about this issue! Thanks for the resources to begin the process of getting rid of junk mail! It is not only wasting resources, but it is also wasting a lot of my time!

    Amanda (visiting from the SITS tortoise tribe)

  2. Jane says:

    Junk Mail is a subject that needs to be revisited every so often as the amount starts to creep back up. Councils often have No Junk Mail stickers available free.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    @Amanda: Hi Amanda, welcome to the site, great to see you here and so glad we could help!
    @Jane: You’re right Jane; in the UK ( I don’ t think Amanda is from our side of the pond!) it’s good to reinstate ‘no junk mail’ every couple of years to keep your name up to date on the database. I’m noticing more creeping in our home so it’s time to update!

  4. Poppy says:

    I had a bit of a disagreement this morning with a man delivering leaflets for a pizza company. He argued that it was marketing in the same way as any TV advert or the ads you get when you go to the shops. I just told him that in my household they are unwanted, we don’t do takeaway (apart from the odd chippy run 😉 ) and we don’t want his leaflets. Even worse, they were for a business across the other side of town, but that’s okay according to him because they deliver! Aaaaarrrgghh! No, no, no it’s not okay!!!

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: Oh dear Poppy; well in my opinion, for what it’s worth, you don’t have to watch TV adverts and the adverts in shops don’t end up with you having to dispose of them, so they are quite different. ..

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